3 Tips for Search Engine Optimization on a Budget

You do not have to break the bank to get quality SEO results. But you do need to figure out the metrics that matter when it comes to delivering a return on your investment. It is also important to temper expectations, when it comes to results. Search engine optimization typically takes longer to drive leads and sales, when compared to PPC advertising campaigns.

You do not have to break the bank to get quality SEO results. But you do need to figure out the metrics that matter when it comes to delivering a return on your investment. It is also important to temper expectations, when it comes to results. Search engine optimization typically takes longer to drive leads and sales, when compared to PPC advertising campaigns.

Getting the Most for Your Money

Let’s go over some ways that companies can make their sites SEO-friendly, without breaking the bank.

1. Get the Architecture Right

If you are going to spend money anywhere, make sure some of it goes toward building a quality website. It should have a clean design, an intuitive navigation experience, and be accessible to search engines. Menus, content, and other information should be organized in a way that makes sense and is easy to find. There are plenty of SEO-savvy developers capable of providing a new website or revamping your existing one for a reasonable price.

Google and Bing both offer free webmaster guidelines that businesses can use as a guide to creating search-friendly websites. They are an excellent resource for businesses, even if they are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of technical SEO.

2. Small Details Matter

With SEO, small details can make all of the difference in your rankings.

Here are some cost-effective ways of upgrading your website’s SEO.

  • Page Titles — Google uses the page title (aka, Title tag, or <title> in HTML) as a shortcut to know what the page is about. Think of it like the chapter name in a textbook. Include the most relevant keyword(s) you’re trying to rank for in the title so that Google knows the page is 100% relevant to those search phrases.
  • Meta Descriptions — Take the time to fill in the meta descriptions for your website content. Search engines like Google will use this as the excerpt below the hyperlink to your website. A clean, precise description can be the difference-maker in getting a visitor to click through to your site.
  • Header Tags — No one likes reading big walls of text. You could have the most amazing, enlightening content on your web pages, but no one is going to read it without proper formatting. Headers and subheaders are vital in making content easier to read and absorb. Search engines also use the headers to better understand what the page is about, so make sure to include variations of your target keywords in your page headers.

3. Use Free SEO Tools

What better way to understand how Google views SEO than by using the tools it provides? Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) gives you incredible insight into your SEO, all for free! Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to evaluate your website speed and identify opportunities to improve. Plus, with Google’s move to a mobile-first Index, you’ll want to take the Mobile-Friendly Test and fix any issues right away.

For a more advanced analysis, I highly recommend the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. You’ll be able to quickly review all the pages on your website to identify issues with your page titles, descriptions, headers, and even broken links.

Final Thoughts on SEO on a Budget

Businesses can use a variety of resources to improve their SEO without breaking their budget. Improving the architecture of a website is a great place to start, because a poorly structured site will be very difficult to rank high in Google.

And pay attention to the details. Make sure your page titles, descriptions, and headers are all optimized for search engines.

Lastly, take advantage of the free tools and resources available online. Just because they are free, doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. In fact, many of the tools mentioned above are as good or even better than the paid options.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

 

Is Your SEO Thinking Showing Its Age? Here’s How to Fix It

Are you still thinking that your SEO success can be measured in keyword rankings? If you are, you are a bit behind the power curve and your SEO thinking is passé.

Are you still thinking that your SEO success can be measured in keyword rankings? If you are, you are a bit behind the power curve and your SEO thinking is passé.

Today, SEO is all about audience and relevancy, not just keywords and rankings. Yes!

I do not deny that until we can telepathically transmit our queries to an all-encompassing search engine, we will be using language. Language is created from words, but words have multiple meanings. Words are freighted with emotional baggage. The same word can connote or evoke a different response from different individuals.

In the early days of search, we were forced by the technology to focus on text and words. This was because the earliest search engines used word/text matching to find the documents that fit the query. They were essentially large-scale word matchers.

What has changed? Search technology has evolved and artificial intelligence is no longer a science fiction oxymoron. Today, search engines can use both the searcher’s own search history and performance data gleaned from each site to inform the search results delivered. This has forced SEO professionals to reconsider the venerable keyword and how they approach and measure success.

Every Site Has an Audience

If you do not have a clear picture of whom you want to reach with your site, then why bother having a site at all?

The greater the clarity around who your customer is and the more knowledge you have about the information your audience might find useful, the easier it is to develop a coherent SEO strategy.

In the past, when search technology was word-matching, we could define our audience in terms of the keywords.

Today, with the advances in search technology and the more sophisticated tools and metrics, we can more precisely target an audience and offer highly relevant content. Audience definition is first a business strategy and then a marketing exercise. If the business management does not have clear vision of who its customer is and why the customer would want to visit the site, then search success is constrained.

There are plenty of tools for the search marketers to use in the process of keyword research once the audience is defined, but without a clear definition of the audience, you are back to relying on inefficient word-matching.

Beyond Content Curation

Success comes when the content offering is highly relevant to the specific target. It is like fishing. Fly fishing enthusiasts will tell you that the successful fisherman knows how to match the hatch to present exactly the fly (or, it works with lures, too) that the desired species of fish expects to see at precisely that time of year.

Today, successful search marketers are matching the hatch so that their carefully crafted content matches exactly what their specific audience is looking for at that moment in time. This requires more than content creation and curation. It is an exercise in creating fresh content to meet the audience’s current wants to pull the audience through search to the site.

Any muddiness in defining the audience and creating optimized content that matches what the target audience is looking for yields a ticket to suboptimal results.

How Do You Know?

Research and metrics are the keys to success. Tracking success is more of a business exercise than a slavish following of rankings performance. The content and the keywords become potent revenue-drivers only when there is a congruence between the business goals, the audience and search as a revenue-pulling source. This does not begin to suggest that you should neglect the elements of technical search. They are table stakes in a bigger marketing game.

3 Tips to Evaluate the Importance of Link Building for Your Brand

While Google continues to emphasize external links don’t matter as much as everyone believes, there are many SEO experts who beg to differ. Here are three tips to help you evaluate the importance of link building for your brand.

Link building has been a hot SEO topic for many years now. While Google continues to emphasize external links don’t matter as much as everyone believes, there are many SEO experts who beg to differ.

Neil Patel reports the link popularity of a specific page makes up about 22% of Google’s ranking algorithm. That’s almost a quarter, which is a huge chunk, in my eyes.

Backlinko did a study and found the average page in position No. 1 on Google search results had 35,000-plus external backlinks.

Of course, this isn’t all you need to know when gauging the importance of link building in 2019. You need to know:

  • which links influence page rank;
  • how much quality matters; and
  • how much power link building really has on your site’s rankings.

Gaining Recognition From Google With PageRank

Links from authoritative pages pass authority to your page. PageRank is what determines how authoritative a page is according to Google. Because sites with high PageRank are already in Google’s good graces, any links to other sites from those high PageRank sites also receive recognition.

It’s a lot like high school. When someone in the popular group accepts a new student, everyone else in the group accepts him. The authoritative page is the popular kid, and your site is the new kid. Google just likes to hang out with the popular kids and decides to grant rankings to those who are accepted by the cool, popular sites.

The following sums up the importance of having quality backlinks. To  increase your site’s PageRank (authority), you must get sites with high PageRank to link to you. Google trusts sites with high PageRank and, in turn, they will trust you when they link to you.

This trust is what leads Google to rank your site higher for keyword phrases your targeted audience uses in search. As your backlink profile grows with more authoritative links to your site, the more trust Google has for your site, which then leads to higher rankings for more keyword phrases.

The Downfall of the Backlink Hustle

People went crazy over getting backlinks when they found out it had an effect on their site’s rankings. They were asking any and every site to link back to them. Some of them even paid website owners for links, or exchanged links with them.

Paying for links and exchanging links worked for a while, but eventually Google caught on. Google tweaked its algorithm and devalued these types of self-created links.

Introducing … The Penguin Update

It all started when the Penguin update waddled itself into our life. Our SEO life, that is.

When the Penguin update was released, SEOs looked intensely at what happened to their rankings. After Google explained some of the reasoning behind the update, it was clear what made some sites increase in rankings and others plummet: backlinks.

Sites that had high-quality external links saw ranking increases, while those that had low-quality, spammy links or not many backlinks, lost their ranking positions.

But Do Links Still Matter?

The short answer is “yes.”  Links are still important in 2019.

In fact, nothing has really changed over the years except that Google does a better job at weeding out the websites that don’t really belong on the first page of the search results.  As long as you focus on high-quality, relevant links and steer clear of shortcuts, like paid links or spammy links, then you’ll stay in Google’s good graces.

Conclusion

Link building is important, as long as you’re collecting quality backlinks. Publish top-notch content, share it with your industry, and see if others find enough value in it to share a link to it on their sites. As you publish more content and get the recognition from industry leaders, you should see rankings increase little by little. While it may seem like a lot of work, all of the content creation and marketing is worth it when you start to see your site improve (instead of decline) with each algorithm update.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

SEO Measurement Challenges Continue

The measurability of Web traffic has still stands as both a promise and a challenge. As an SEO practitioner who has covered many miles of digital road, I am still amazed at how often site owners are bewildered at how to measure the success of their organic search programs.

The measurability of Web traffic still stands as both a promise and a challenge. As an SEO practitioner who has covered many miles of digital road, I am still amazed at how often site owners are bewildered at how to measure the success of their organic search programs.

In my opinion, the measurement problems for search will continue to grow and expand as search options grow. For example, once upon a time, we only measured desktop traffic and did not have to think about tablets, phones or IoT devices. As search has integrated more deeply into our lives, the challenges have multiplied. It is not just the impact of a variety of devices that have swelled the problem, but also the complexity of what is offered on the search page.

When it was just 10 blue links, it was easier to work with and analyze search program success. Many site owners still rely on tools and thought processes that are archaic for their success measurement.

Casting Just a Wee Bit of Shade

In the early days, SEO practitioners measured success based on keyword rankings. Some of the earliest tools were ranking tools. These gave a clear measurement of where in the search results a site’s pages ranked for selected keywords.

Lots was missing from this approach, including how the page converted and whether the selected phrases were the right ones for the business. As the discipline has grown in sophistication, these early approaches have been abandoned by most savvy practitioners, but many site owners still cling to these keyword and page-placement metrics.

It is our fault as an industry that we have not clearly articulated new ways for how to measure optimized pages. This is incumbent on us. As a practitioner, I abandoned rank-checking as a measurement tool years ago. When Google took away the referrers to protect privacy (their claim), I stopped being able to use the keyword-focused data from the analytics. This pulled me further from my attachment to my beloved keyword data.

Where Now?

A quick tour of the Webmaster Tools Search Console will also show how transient and variable the keyword placements are in a given timeframe.

Some things have not changed. I still use a language-based optimization focus. This is because we still search using words — words matter.

Every site owner should have a clear view of what the site is about and be able to articulate it in very clear words. I have never forgotten a lesson I learned when, after reading an entire site, I still had no idea what the business did and had to call the site owner to ask some pointed questions about the business. I discovered that none of the language that actually described what the business did was on the site. My first recommendation was a site rewrite.

These clunkers are fewer and further between today, but a lack of clear focus is still a problem. When Google wants relevant content, it is a cry for clarity. How does this effect measurement? The single easiest measurement is in sales results that can be attributed to search. This may seem very simplistic. It is, but so too are the macro-econometrics of GDP and GNP. Once past this metric, the question of what to measure is as varied as the site’s intent.

Working in e-commerce, the measurement is easier and more direct. For the goal is get the cash, get the cash, get the cash.

But for other types of businesses the metrics may be more nuanced. The point is to stop measuring rankings and measure real results.

5 SEO Tools Every Business Must Use to Be Successful

Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets improved.” That’s true with everything, especially search engine optimization. There’s simply no way to improve your SEO results unless you’re using the right measurement tools.

SearchEd Note: Don’t miss today’s webinar with Phil Frost: “5 Rules for Winning in the New World of Search” where he’ll explain what you need to do (and what you need to avoid!) to get your website ranking high in Google!

Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets improved.”

That’s true with everything, especially search engine optimization (SEO). There’s simply no way to improve your SEO results unless you’re using the right measurement tools.

What exactly do you need to measure? Just rankings right? Wrong! Rankings are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to monitoring your SEO efforts. That’s why I put together this list of 5 tools that every business needs to be successful with SEO.

As you’ll see, each tool provides an answer to a critical SEO question. That’s the key takeaway. Regardless of the exact tools you use, you must be able to answer the five questions below …

1. Are Your SEO Traffic and Conversions Trending Up or Down?

You’ll notice the first question is not about your search engine rankings. More important than rankings is the amount of traffic and conversions (leads and sales) you’re generating from SEO.

To measure your traffic and conversions from SEO, you’ll need to install Google Analytics, a powerful and completely free website analytics tool.

Once Google Analytics is installed properly on your website, then you’ll easily be able to report on and see if your search engine traffic is trending up or down. Plus, when you set up conversion tracking (aka Goals), then you’ll see how many conversions were generated directly from your SEO traffic.

2. Can Google Index Your Website Without Errors?

Before your website has a shot at ranking on the first page, Google must first crawl your website and store it in the search engine Index. During this process to index your website, Google could run into errors.

For example, Google may find broken links or pages that take too long to load. Some pages may be inadvertently telling Google to not index them by using what’s called a “noindex” tag. Lastly, it’s even possible for a website to completely block the Google bot from crawling the website, which means no pages would ever show up in the search results!

To identify errors like this, make sure you set up your Google Search Console account (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools). Once you set up your account, you’ll get alerts if Google finds errors on your website or if they issue your website a penalty that would hurt your rankings.

3. Are Your Rankings Improving?

First, it’s important to address a common misconception that all you need to do is check Google to find your rankings. I’ve talked to many business owners that check their rankings religiously by searching in Google.

Ever since Google started to personalize the search results, manually checking your rankings was no longer effective. In fact, it can be very misleading!

SEO 101: The 3 Keys to Rank No. 1 in Google

Mark Twain was only half joking when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, then wait a few minutes.” Growing up in Massachusetts I distinctly remember days when one minute it would be raining or snowing, and the next minute it would be clear skies.

Mark Twain was only half joking when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, then wait a few minutes.” Growing up in Massachusetts I distinctly remember days when one minute it would be raining or snowing, and the next minute it would be clear skies.

In other words, the weather in New England is a lot like Google’s algorithm; It’s constantly in flux, and it can seem nearly impossible to stay on top of all the updates. Whether you are new to SEO (search engine optimization) or your rankings have recently slipped, you might have gone looking for answers only to become overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice. If you are feeling frustrated and confused, don’t worry because you are not alone!

Fortunately, no matter how many new updates Google rolls out, following the fundamental best practices of good SEO should keep you ahead of the power curve. Here are the 3 steps to achieving and maintaining a spot at the top of the rankings.

  1. Research
    No matter what else you do, choosing the right target keywords is the most important step for your success. Begin your research for free with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. As you study the available keywords, look for the ones that best meet 2 separate but related criteria:
    • A) Search Volume: This refers to how many people are searching for that particular keyword. A higher search volume means more potential eyeballs for your page.
    • B) Relevance: You want to focus on the keywords that draw customers who are ready to buy. Later, you can expand your reach to include “tire kickers,” or prospects who are in the early stages of considering a purchase. But for now, you want to bring in people who want your product or service today.

      While the “perfect” target keywords include both high search volume and high relevance, those can be tough or even impossible to find. For now, focus on those that hit a “bullseye” for relevance, even if the search volume is not quite as high.

  2. Relevance
    Once you have a list of target keywords, you need to make sure Google considers your website as relevant to those keywords. At one time, “keyword stuffing,” or unnaturally forcing the keyword all over the site, was a common strategy. Today, this action is penalized with lower rankings. Instead, focus on naturally incorporating the keyword where it makes sense. There are two steps to improving your relevance:
    • A) Website Structure: Match one keyword to each page of your website. This keeps the focus clean and helps Google recognize that the page is relevant. For your homepage, focus on your “dream” keyword—the one word or phrase that best describes your business and for which you would love to rank No. 1.
    • B) Page Elements: Each web page contains numerous areas where you can add your keyword. These include the Title Tag, Meta Description, Header Tags (H1, H2, and H3), and Body Copy. Remember to use the keyword in the Title Tag and Meta Description, and to incorporate it only where it naturally fits in the Header Tags and Body Copy.
  3. Reputation
    Convincing Google that your website and its individual pages are relevant is not enough. You also need to demonstrate that you are a trusted authority on your particular target keywords. You do this by building your site’s reputation.

    Traditionally, the best way to build reputation was through hyperlinks from other sites to yours. While this still remains very important, many old-school link building tactics are now penalized by Google. You need to focus on organic, natural relationships with other websites, rather than simply going on a campaign to build as many links as possible.

    Social media is also becoming an increasingly important factor. Page referrals through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets are now weighed heavily in the new Google algorithms. In fact, some experts believe that social media signals will soon outstrip web links as the No. 1 factor in determining your domain reputation.

What Does All This Mean for You?
As Google continues to roll out new algorithms and updates, some SEO ranking techniques will disappear, and new ones will be developed. What will never change, however, is the importance of creating excellent content.

Rather than attempting to “trick” Google into giving you higher rankings than you deserve, focus on creating content that is worthy of being ranked No. 1. Add new content frequently, spruce up old content that has seen better days, and make quality your number one goal. This simple policy will help you weather any storms and ensure that your site receives high rankings for many years to come.